It was only a matter of time…
The B Action Movie Thread has been a gargantuan mainstay of this site for several years. So, in our continued efforts to dominate the internet in every conceivable way, here is a weekly column. A digest, if you will. Dig in and we’ll see you in the thread!
THIS WEEK ON THE B ACTION MOVIE THREAD (Last Week’s Installment)
Mike here with a lowdown on the happenings in the B-Action Movie Thread for this week.
First off, however, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the death of an action-film luminary earlier this week, British director Peter Yates, who will probably be best remembered as the director of Bullitt and, in turn, the car chase in the film that defined a new generation of action filmmaking. Yates was also behind The Friends of Eddie Coyle, one of the best and darkest crime thrillers of the 1970’s, and the Tom Selleck they-just-fucked-with-the-wrong-guy thriller An Innocent Man. And of course, we’ll always have Krull. To the man who gave us horses who caught fire when they galloped, rest in peace, sir.
1. Rolling Thunder
2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
3. Enter the Dragon
4. The French Connection
5. Dirty Harry
1. The Spy Who Loved Me
3. Smokey And The Bandit
4. Every Which Way But Loose
5. The Mechanic
1. White Lightning
2. The Getaway
3. Mr. Majestyk
4. Prime Cut
Rene also posted his list, which was essentially the same as the one Elvis had, swapping White Lightning and Rollerball out for Death Wish and Live and Let Die.
After he views thread favorite I Come in Peace again, wadew1 ponders Dolph Lundgren’s ethical standards, noting that Detective Jack Caine, his persona in the film, is more off-put by crime boss Victor Manning’s Brazilian getaway than the fact that said criminal killed his partner, leading into yet another discussion on the man and legend that is the O.G. Punisher—specifically, his John Woo-directed failed pilot, Blackjack, which, according to Moltisanti, handles milk in a similar fashion to E.T.’s demonstration of the power of Reese’s Pieces:
Milk figures into BLACKJACK a lot. Wait until you see the ridiculous scene where the dairy product is used to help free a little girl from the clutches of a gunman.
I haven’t seen Blackjack, but this sounds like either a Mac and Me-esque marketing ploy by the Milk Board or some serious MacGyver shit.
Speaking of the star of Army of One, on page 1388, the Lundgren fun dragos (sorry, couldn’t resist) on with Jox’s posting of a new interview with Dolph by GQ, where we learn he’s a very, very classy man who loves nice suits and the Italian digestif Fernet-Branca and sticks to a very rigorous exercise plan (but you already knew that).
On page 1386, the use of popular music in pro wrestling is briefly discussed, and Fat Elvis starts a discussion on liberal tendencies in right-wing action film politics (and vice versa). The Perfect Weapon discovers the glory of Murphy’s Law. Rene and I recount our memories of seeing Con Air in theaters.
Felix provides two bits of breaking news—one, the word that Steven Seagal may be in the sequel to the Karate Kid remake, and most importantly, plans for a Wesley Snipes-starring video game hitting the iTunes App Store, Julius Styles: The International.
Styles “is an international ‘Facilitator,’ a man whose unique talents make him a valuable commodity.” The action-puzzle game takes cues from the jailed action star’s “desire to bring my Art of War, Murder at 1600 and Passenger 57 characters into the game world. Julius Styles will offer something for both the mind game strategist and the kick-ass special ops warrior lover.
“For those of you hoping that the game is centered around Julia Stiles disguised as a crime-fighting man, we apologize for the miscommunication.
Page 1387 deals with some hardships in the news: Peter Yates’ death, the outrageousness of Shane Black’s supposed masturbatory antics (which sound like some whacked-out POPPYCOCK to me), and Edward Furlong’s latest arrest, which we—no doubt—attribute to his troubled past, due to white-trash foster parents and a nasty habit for hijacking ATM’s.
On page 1388, Sylvester Stallone’s disaster effort Daylight and his ridiculous character name, KIT LATURA, is remembered when news of its Blu-ray release hits, and the first image from Fox’s upcoming dinosaur show Terra Nova debuts, leading to another round of love for thread legend Stephen Lang. Erix suffers through the much-hated (but admittedly decent) Gamer and lives to tell. I finally watch John Carpenter’s Vampires and immediately have the hots for the film.
Further, bringing last week’s column full circle is Hans Gruber’s EYE CONDITION!’s reading of Tokyo Vice, investigative journalist Jake Adelstein’s journey to the heart of Japan’s modern crime life that very much sounds like a real-life Black Rain. He then follows up this brief book review with this murderously funny image on page 1389:
Also on page 1389, be sure to check out Erix’s analysis of the lyrics to A-ha’s title theme to The Living Daylights.
From the Mind of Rene F. Rangel
Rene is one of the foremost luminaries of the B Action Movie Thread, in no small part because of his undying—and often unironic—love of movies that usually don’t get a lot of praise or any praise at all. He loves his local Redbox and always jumps at the allure of a new dollar rental. He frequents Target, Big Lots, FYE, Sam Goody, and many other stores for DVD bargains and enjoys meals at Buffalo Wild Wings and Red Lobster. Here’s a selection of choice quotes from the man himself—no matter how bizarre he gets with his taste, you can’t help but love him.
Neglected to mention that earlier in the week, I placed an Amazon order that was fairly large, but a $25 gift card my friend got me from it brought the price down significantly. I picked up Con Air and Harry Brown on Blu-ray, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot on DVD, and the soundtrack to Moonraker.
Watching Wall Street 2 right now on Blu-ray with my girlfriend. It was either this or Speed 2: Cruise Control, and we decided on Wall Street 2 as we hadn’t seen it before.
D.A.R.Y.L. was a decent movie. I liked how it went with the whole “An AI can be human” motif that Blade Runner did so well, but with a test tube baby.
Last January, I saw most of The Friends of Eddie Coyle on TCM, but didn’t get to finish it. From what I read on Wikipedia, that ending is pretty downbeat.
Octopussy is a damn great movie. The World Is Not Enough is really good, but Octopussy destroys it. Yes, I’m well aware I just typed that.
MOVIE OF THE WEEK: RICOCHET
ERIX ANTOINE CONTEMPLATES RICOCHET
Ricochet is one of the most unusual and unique action pictures of the 90s. It is seldom recognized as a great movie or even a cult movie, despite having everything going for it to be those two things. But I’m hoping we can change that today, if only by some small measure.
It’s a movie of firsts. Denzel Washington is kind of an action star today, thanks to Tony Scott and his epileptic collaborations. But this was his first time at bat in the genre. Before this, he was known as that cute actor who got Oscar nominations for dying in Cry Freedom and Glory. He was also in a movie called Heart Condition, where he gives Bob Hoskins his heart and teaches him to be less of an asshole. Or something. Oh, and I mean that literally. As in: Bob Hoskins has Denzel Washington’s heart beating inside his chest and that means that Denzel is dead and shows up as a ghost to teach Bob Hoskins life lessons. I haven’t seen the movie. But I remember seeing the posters in subway stations on my way to school every morning and the TV ads had an amusing shot of Bob Hoskins having a heart attack while grabbing his wrist and his chest and making a funny face.
My point being: Denzel Washington had not made any action films, to my knowledge, before he starred in Ricochet.
These days, John Lithgow is known – by the general populace – as either that goofball from 3rd Rock From The Sun or that crazy motherfucker from Dexter. But, to me, he’s always been the best of the bad guys. He’d played villains before… But I dare say this was the first time he created one so indelible and essential to the film’s success. As I see it, Ricochet’s Earl Talbot Blake is the first of a perfect demonic trilogy that continued with Cliffhanger’s Qualen and was capped to perfection by The Trinity Killer. But, due to the sheer comic book intensity of Blake, he remains my favorite of the three. From his great introduction, where he steps out of the shadows to tell his silly sidekick (played by Robert Evans’s son) that he will tie him up and gag him if he doesn’t shut the fuck up, to his grotesque comeuppance – Lithgow creates a portrait of evil that would be right at home in a Batman comic.
And that reference brings me to the essential crux of my love for this film. It is a weird fucking movie that infuses dark psychological pathos with a comic book sensibility. Russell Mulcahy has been widely celebrated as a visual stylist because he made Highlander and some Duran Duran videos and that Police video that looks like Cirque du Soleil. Far as I’m concerned, this is his best work. In any case, his best film. It’s just a creative mishmash that shouldn’t work, but does. Much like Superman, it seems to be three films in one – each with its own rather distinct tone.
It starts out like kind of an urban action piece… We open on a basketball game where Denzel (as Nick Styles – rookie cop) and Kevin Pollack (as his partner Larry Doyle) shoot hoops with local hoods (including Ice-T as ODESSA).
Momentary digression… I remember when this movie came out, I used to hang out at the video section of J & R Music World in downtown Manhattan. And they would constantly run promos for it on their TVs. A trailer, followed by an EPK. In one of them, Lithgow talked about how he wanted to create a villain that was reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter. (In some ways, he is. But Hannibal Lecter would never threaten to have sex with the parole judge’s dog) But in another, more interesting one, Ice-T talked about his work on the film and said: Enough about this “black film” or “white film” thing. Let’s just make films. I admired him very much from that day on.
Anyway… It starts as an urban piece with a lot of “high-five” one liners and cute cool. This continues through Styles and Doyle’s rapport as they patrol some local fair and Pollack gets to make the first of his shoehorned impersonations. (He does do both a Shatner and a Peter Falk at moments that they try to pull off as natural for the character) After the turn of events that lead to Blake’s capture, the film morphs into a psychological thriller about obsession.
Taken from a purely artistic perspective, this is the most interesting segment of the film. Blake’s revenge is complex and the movie isn’t necessarily stupid about presenting the elements of Nick Styles’s destruction. The movie is clearly trying to say something about the fickle public and how easy it can be to destroy this political figure’s image. The fact he’s black adds a deeper layer of social relevance to the piece. His takedown of Blake was used as a political bargaining chip that had him go from beat cop to detective to assistant DA in record time. And his background is helpful in keeping the support of the minority voters. I don’t want to sound like Armond White, but the film – although subtle in doing so – does make a pointed observation about just how easy it is to destroy this man’s life. The eventual redemption feels less realistic and is a concession to the commercial requirements of the genre, but the film’s point has been made. And all the scenes between Denzel and the white people in the District Attorney’s office (in particular as his life is being destroyed) make very clear that there is contempt in the air.
The rest of the movie is not as lofty… As, in its third act, Ricochet clearly morphs into a kind of Blaxploitation comic book – wherein Styles teams up with his drug dealer friends from the hood to take out the punk who wrecked his life. The climactic moments of the film are, quite frankly, ludicrous. But no less fun to watch. Besides, it’s that ludicrousness… this kind of off-the-wall insanity… That’s what you crave from a good B Movie. And, although the film is divided into three specific tonal acts, there is plenty of ridiculousness peppered throughout to make sure you remember that this is a Joel Silver production. (The film takes place in the DieHardVerse. Mary Ellen Trainor appears as Gail Wallens. She even gets prominent billing in the opening credits).
Blake’s prison adventures play like The Shawshank Redemption on crack. The most celebrated aspect of which is the infamous Aryan Warriors duel between Lithgow and Jesse Ventura. Quite possibly one of the most absurd (or absurdist?) fight scenes to ever be featured in an action film. There’s also the fact that Blake’s growing obsession with Nick Styles is illustrated by him making Xerox copies (no I’m not sure if the machine is actually a Xerox) of Styles from a newspaper clipping. Eventually having giant zoomed-in copies of his eyes and mouth and using that to decorate his cell wall.
This cheerful wackiness is not restricted to Lithgow. Later in the film, after receiving a threatening video from Blake, Styles runs out of the house – still dressed in his ridiculous pink bathrobe and slippers – and proceeds to terrorize his daughters and other children at some party by threatening a clown with his gun. I like the added detail that the clown continues to use his stupid sing-song voice even as he pulls his nose off and begs Styles not to kill him.
On the thread, we’ve often talked about how cool it would be if there were an entire line of Ricochet action figures. Well… I can tell you right now that the limited edition of Denzel Washington in that pink bathrobe would be proudly displayed on my shelf. It’s such a cool image, it deserves to be one of those super-detailed 16-inch collectibles. With real fabric and shit.
But wait, there’s more!
I mentioned that Blake’s sidekick – Kim – is played by Robert Evans’s son. I’m not sure how to classify the acting abilities of Josh Evans because I haven’t seen him in any other movies. Maybe the reason for this is because of Ricochet. Given that he played such a weasely little douchebag in his first major role, I think people were afraid to hire him. For fear that he actually was that fucking annoying in real life. You don’t really root for Blake in the movie and you are happy to see him get what he deserves at the end. But, man if you don’t cheer every time he tells that kid to shut up!
Another thing of note is the film’s violence. This is some pretty ruthless shit from a time when action movies were expected to go for the hard R every time. The squibs are out of hand. I love how even a shot from a pistol opens a hole in a guy’s belly the size of a full moon. To say nothing of what is referred to by the film’s fans as THE PAROLE BOARD SEQUENCE – which is almost grand guignol in its excessiveness.
And of course… The celebrated one liners. You can tell Steven E De Souza put pen to paper on this one. It almost rivals Commando. Except that, this time, it’s the villain who gets all the great lines and comebacks. Many have been quoted and will continue to be quoted with your wife’s pubic hair. But my personal favorite is the cruelest: While holding a shotgun to his female hostage’s face, Blake threatens – Pork, back off! Or she’s gonna need a paper bag over her head when her boyfriend fucks what’s left of her!
I also like when Miguel Sandoval (sporting the very stylish Armand Assante-in-Q & A look) comes out of the bathroom after a bunch of guys he wanted to double-cross get wasted by Blake. He looks at Blake and says: Gracias, amigo. To which Blake responds: de nada and punctuates with a shotgun blast to Sandoval’s chest. (I should add that the squib for that puppy is HUGE).
Anyway… My point is that this has all the elements of a cult classic and it really isn’t one. I mean, all we have available right now is a crappy non-anamorphic DVD from HBO Home Video. And that really sucks. More people should see it. More people should celebrate it as the great forgotten classic that it is. Because I want my snazzy Blu Ray okay? Please help me.
I should mention, before I go, that it’s the only action film in history where the villain gives the hero The Clap. It doesn’t happen in the way you may imagine, but it does happen.
If nothing else, see it for that reason.
I know you. You’re that dude who got busted on America’s Funniest Home Videos! HAHAHAHAHAHA!Fuck yourself, creamcake. (John Lithgow kicks Jesse Ventura’s ass)
It’s absolutely true. How this movie isn’t some sort of cult classic or minor masterpiece puzzles the hell out of me. Ricochet is a film that could have easily—too easily—been something pedestrian and unimaginative. Instead, what we get is a Hitchcockian neo-noir with the slam-bang slickness Joel Silver has in his productions. Denzel Washington is effortless in the lead role, and it’s one of his best starring vehicles. The Bernard Herrmann-esque sensibilities of Alan Silvestri’s score are powerful, horn-heavy, and among his best work.
The real star of the show, however, is John Lithgow. His turn as the remorseless Earl Talbot Blake is required viewing for anyone who was blown away by his performance on Dexter. Hell, I’ll go as far as saying that Lithgow not only plays Blake on the same level Alan Rickman played Hans Gruber, he should have sneaked an Oscar nomination out of this performance. In the grand tradition of so many action villains, he’s a wisecracking, calculating psychopath and sociopath whose sense of humor is as deadly and impulsive as the swiftness of his actions. However, Lithgow is so charismatic and believable that he makes the wholly unlikable and morally bankrupt Blake someone you root for solely because of how beautifully he conveys himself in the role. The noirish way Mulcahy introduces him.
What I also love about it is how bonkers the script—co-written by Steven E. de Souza and Fred Dekker!—is, and yet the whole thing just adds to the experience of it. Stiles and Blake’s first confrontation is thrilling stuff to start with. But the entire chunk of the film where Blake is in prison is the MVP of the movie. “The Shawshank Redemption on crack” is a brilliant way of putting it. Just when you thought John Fucking Lithgow could beat the shit out of Jesse Ventura, the next scene they’re in as they settle their differences like TRUE ARRRRREEEEE-UNNNNNNNN WARRRRRRRREEEEUHHHHHS!!!!!!!!!! is basically a remake of the fight Kirk and Spock have in Amok Time, complete with Silvestri’s score swelling with horns. Hell, the Medieval Times scene in The Cable Guy owes as much to this movie as it does to that Star Trek episode.
The parole hearing is legendary too, I nearly shit myself the first time I saw a bunch of guys run in with power tools shredding everyone up. And I must say, the climax doesn’t fit outside of the realm of the film. It builds to the ridiculousness quite well. In the end, it’s a rousing action-thriller that’s completely stunning in how little love the greater world has given it over the years.
By the way, as for whether this film or The Rookie is better in the realm of Action Movies Where the Male Protagonist is Raped by a Female, I can’t answer that. That’s like saying whether I’d rather have pizza or ice cream cease to exist in the world.
“Well, Mr. Chairman, I think I would pay a visit to your house”
“To thank me, I suppose…”
“No. To fuck your wife. And your daughter. Hell… Maybe even your dog.”
Ricochet is one great slice of cinema. I first saw it on ABC around 1994, and even in that cut up tv version, I knew I was seeing something good. I was already a fan of John Lithgow for his portrayal of Eric Qualen, and Earl Talbot Blake is like Eric Qualen’s younger more psychotic brother.
His humiliation at the hands of Denzel Washington’s Nick Styles when he’s arrested in 1983 leads him to be incarcerated, and years later, and many TRUE ARYAN WARRIOR battles later, Blake escapes, and with the help of his sidekick, Kim, goes after Nick Styles who is now an attorney, and begins to destroy his life. The standouts in the film are of course, the legendary TRUE ARYAN WARRIOR fight in the prison between Jesse Ventura and John Lithgow, and the prison escape. It’s such a violent scene, that it HAD to have been edited from it’s original version. Ricochet is a classic piece of modern action cinema, and every action fan owes it to him or herself to see it. Plus the score is by Alan Silvestri, and it sounds almost exactly like his scores for Predator and Predator 2!
ICON OF THE WEEK – JOHN LITHGOW
RENE SALUTES A GREAT VILLAIN
To round up our second B-Movie column, we’re going to get a little distinguished, and award our icon of the week to JOHN LITHGOW.
I first saw John Lithgow in Cliffhanger and of course this week’s featured Ricochet. He joined the ranks of Kurtwood Smith as an actor I was only familiar with via his dastardly villain roles.
His Eric Qualen was as slimy as they come, even killing his woman, so as to be the only person able to fly them out of the mountains. In Ricochet he’s a man obsessed with destroying the life of the cop who put him in prison.
Then he did 3rd Rock From The Sun, and I got to see him do comedy. He was very damn good at it too. The Emmys solidified that. Like Kurtwood Smith did later as Red Forman, he showed that he could play more than just the bad guy. Of course this was ages before I discovered that he had done other roles, like being the standout among a large cast in Twilight Zone: The Movie, and earning an Oscar nomination for playing a transvestite. He also had a great supporting role in the underrated Orange County, as the work obsessed Father of Colin Hanks, and showed that he had great chemistry with Catherine O’Hara in that same movie.
John Lithgow has had a varied career, which recently had him return to his villainous roots with a season long arc as the serial killer Arthur Mitchell aka The Trinity Killer, on the excellent Showtime series Dexter (see this amazing show!) His character had so many great moments on the show, such as coldly forcing a woman to jump off a ledge to bizarrely picking a fight and losing with a drunk outside a bar, to calling his wife a cunt at Thanksgiving dinner and brutalizing his family.
He also led the show into a game changer that is one of the most harrowing season finales I’ve eve witnessed.
Above all, John Lithgow is a master actor. He can play any role. He can’t be typecast, which is something lots of actors fall prey to. He has had great roles, and his role on Dexter only serves to show that not only has he now been revealed to a younger generation of fans who will now seek out other films he has done, but that he can still play vile villains, and is still at the top of his game.